Establishing business credit as a non-profit organization is similar to building creditworthiness for any other business. Since non-profits are usually incorporated, the steps to getting business credit cards are nearly identical to those who run their businesses to make money. However, a non-profit may have better luck getting credit with local merchants than businesses that have a profit motive. This is because non-profits are often given grants and donations, and may be considered by local retailers a better risk, because the non-profit organization has multiple methods to pay its bills.
Gather your business documents, including articles of incorporation, employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service, and your business license. You will not need your tax exempt status forms if this applies to your non-profit, because it is not really relevant to getting business credit. If you are tax-exempt, have the proof handy before making any actual purchases.
Visit your local bank or credit union where your non-profit organization has a business checking account. (If you are a new non-profit, open an account while you are there.) Ask if your organization could be eligible for a business credit card. It is unlikely that as a non-profit you would be asked to provide a personal guarantee with your own Social Security number and credit standing.
Apply for starter business credit cards with Staples and Office Depot (see Resources for application links.) If accepted, charge a few small items when the card arrives. Pay at least the minimum payment on time or early each month.
Visit local businesses that have services that you might want to use on credit for your non-profit organization. For instance, you may wish to be invoiced for conference rooms, catering, T-shirt production or brochure copies. Most local merchants are happy to invoice trustworthy non-profits, and would also serve as valuable credit references later.
Apply for net-30 accounts from online merchants such as Quill, an electronics and office supply business, and Wearguard, a uniforms manufacturer (see Resources). They will send you requested goods and an invoice. Pay the invoice early or on-time.
Apply for more credit as needed, especially after several months pass. Good lenders for non-profit organizations include department stores, gas stations, hotels, airlines and major credit cards.